An open letter – A nail in the coffin of Soho enabled by Westminster council

About us – We are a small, independent business in Soho with roots back to 1933 who are now so dismayed with Westminster council that we feel we have to make our views known. We don’t usually moan, and we are not one for consipriacy theories but honestly it’s just getting too much!


Things change, it’s a fact of life. Things change for better, things change for the worse and how things change in Soho is largely dictated by Westminster council. So let’s take a look at the message being sent by Westminster council by the recent decision to grant planning permission for the conversion of Film House on Wardour Street (round the corner from us) from 11,000 sq meters of office space used by the creative industries to a 174 room upmarket hotel.

Westminster council claim they are committed to maintaining the character of Soho, which is generally considered to benefit from the varied, mixed use of premises. A vibrant mix of residential, creative, office, retail and hospitality use ensures that the area cannot be monopolised and overrun by any one type of industry. Supporting the provision of small office and workshop spaces supports independent, creative businesses that add so much to the vibrancy and character of the area – which is Soho’s magnetic north.

Westminster council’s planning committee have decided that turning over a large amount of space dedicated to independent creative business is fine as “the proposals are considered to be in line with [a policy to] encourage an increase in visitor accommodation throughout the city.” This was no doubt facilitated by a £15,000 payment to Westminster councils PPA scheme that subsidises the planning department.

There’s the rub. From a council perspective visitors are cheap. Tourists come in, spend money and leave. Visitors and the large corporations providing the theme park cookie cutter experiences tailored to them don’t heavily use council services. They don’t complain about noise, dumped rubbish, drug dealing, vagrants or the disruption caused by over-development – because they don’t live and breathe Soho. They don’t need social care and they don’t use community services. They come in and leave, it’s a transient occupation. Soho is a source of work, income and profit and nothing more. The manager of Starbucks on the corner doesn’t give a shit that the rubbish bin on the street has been overflowing for three days. We do, so we report it to make sure it’s emptied. The manager of Chipotle, King, Starbucks, Brgr or Cards Galore don’t care that junkies use the street as a toilet and it gets piled up with human waste. We do, and we have to request a “flush” of the area to get the shit cleaned off. That’s how glamorous Soho life is. It’s the residents and small business owners that deal with this for the benefit of everyone.

Westminster council have no interest in supporting the independent character of Soho and the individuals that have created and maintain it. Small businesses complain and protest about sustainability. Large multi-national or venture capital backed hospitality and retail interests are happy to pay inflated rates and rents.

Westminster council had the opportunity to draw a line in the sand with this planning application and demonstrate their genuine commitment to the diversity of Soho. Westminster council granted permission despite overwhelming objections, including The Soho Society which opposed the unwelcome change of use and impact on businesses in the existing building and 51 objections (out of 52 responses) from other representations received, mostly from occupiers of buildings in and around the site.

So here are the facts – when lamenting the fate of Soho it is Westminster Council you should be looking to and lobbying. No end of ideas, hopes and wishful thinking will enable small independent business to operate here – economics and vested interests are what shape and dictate events which is plainly evident on the ground. The small, truly independent operators and landlords that still remain in this area are exiting stage left. The community that created and sustained Soho and it’s village atmosphere (of which my family is a part) is disintegrating to be replaced by a disparate set of generic, venture capital backed enterprises run to maximise profit.

In 5 – 10 years Soho will become Covent Garden. A generic area dominated by global retail and hospitably enterprises whose sole purpose is to suck in tourist dollars.

My family has run a business here since 1933. I was brought up here and have lived here for over 25 years and for the first time in that period Soho doesn’t feel like home. Soho is vanishing. What it is being replaced by is souless and generic and Westminster council are colluding with big money business interests to crush the soul and character of the area. On face value it would be easy to conclude that Westminster council are actively trying to get rid of small independent businesses. So come on Westminster – what do you want? You cannot rely on the diversity of Soho to pull in visitors whilst at the same time decimating it.

What is to be done? I do not know, but come here while you can. In a few years time this will be the place where Soho used to be.

We are privileged to have on our shelves another fine Yorkshire gin – York gin. Emma, one of the masterminds behind York Gin visited the London Gin Club a while back and we spent a pleasant evening chatting about gin. Fast forward a year or so and we have the fruits of the labours of the fantastic team behind York Gin in our hands. A London Dry made with 9 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, orris, lemon peel and black pepper, the aim was to create a smooth sipping gin, so how did they fare?

The nose is bold, fresh and vibrant. Floral lavender top notes and fresh camphory juniper predominate. Subtle, sweet, underlying green bass notes entice you into sipping.

Tasted neat this is a smooth gin with a round silky mouth feel. Lavender top notes yield to the cooling fresh camphor of juniper, there is a bite of pepper bitterness with pepper heat persisting into a long smooth linger with an underlying sweetness. This gin has a most satisfying balance of cooling juniper pine and warm pepper heat. Let the ice melt in the glass a touch and this is a most satisfying sipping gin indeed; round, well-balanced with an underlying silky sweetness.

With tonic (Fever Tree regular) the same nose is present but is a touch greener. The profile remains the same but is more open: fresh lavender floral top notes, cooling juniper with a pepper bite and underlying sweetness with a touch af warming spice seeping through.

This is a most satisfying dry gin – an excellent sipping gin, easy drinking on ice it also makes a great gin and tonic which we garnish with a rhubarb slice.

So raise your glass to Rutterkin, the black cat and swaggering gallant who adorns the bottles of York Gin. We most wholeheartedly welcome him onto our shelves and onto our lastest tasting menus at the London Gin Club.


We have a fantastic selection of new gins for spring and summer 2018. We are also extremely excited to launch our Summer Tasting menu showcasing four floral and fruit forward gins, perfect for a refreshing summer G&T.  Also new to the menu is our Fruit Gin tasting menu which showcases three sumptuous fruit cordial gins.

For Tasting menu number 1 we have:

  • Kongsgaard 44% – A Danish gin inspired by local forests. Made from 11 botanicals including apple, cinnamon, charred oak, resin and tiger nuts this gin has fresh juniper, warm apple notes balanced with the bright freshness of ginger and galangal.
  • Duck & Crutch 45% – Made in Kensington using juniper, vanilla, Darjeeling tea, walnut and fresh thyme. A smooth, warm juniper led gin with hints of spice and a Darjeeling tea finish.
  • Gower 43% – A sophisticated blend of eight botanicals including lemon, pink grapefruit, bronze and green fennel. Gower captures the freshness of the sea and the heady fragrance of local Welsh herbs.
  • Gin Wala 45% – Taking inspiration from the flavours of chai this is a London Dry made with juniper, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, ginger, Assam tea and black pepper. Smooth and warm with juniper and sweet spice.

For Tasting Number 2 we have:

  • York Gin 42.5% – A fantastic dry gin made with juniper, orris root, coriander and black pepper, the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret. This is a smashing dry juniper led gin with lavender floral top notes.
  • Bareksten 46% – An award-winning Nordic gin that uses organic ingredients. Oaky with bright hints of caraway shining through.
  • Foxhole 40% – Made with a Sussex grape based spirit the botanicals include juniper, coriander, orris root, liquorice, bitter orange, fresh lemon and grapefruit zest.
  • Lilliput 40% – Distilled with pride in Dorset using home-grown rosemary, basil from Egypt, thyme from Spain and fermented kalamata olives from Greece.

Our Summer Tasting menu showcases fruit and floral forward gins:

  • Black Rose 43.1% – This floral gin leads with juniper and Damascus rose bound together with piney juniper and a sweetness reminiscent of floral candies and preserved citrus.
  • Mor Irish Gin 47% – An Irish gin made using juniper, angelica, coriander, rosemary, blackberry, raspberry and cranberry. Subtle florals and vivid raspberry fruit notes shine out.
  • St Giles 42% – An elegant blend of 11 botanicals including grains of paradise, rose petals and lemongrass. Smooth and fruity with subtle citrus and floral notes.
  • Pomelo 41% – Made using Juniper, grapefruit, cox’s orange pipin, conference pears, wormwood and liquorice. Fresh and crisp with full-bodied citrus.

Our new Fruit Gin tasting menu showcases three sumptuous fruit cordial gins: Rhubarb, Strawberry & Balsamic and Sloe.

Japanese Whisky’s are known for their nuanced flavours and so we were keen to try Roku Gin, made by the Japanese distilling giant Suntory.

Roku is made with 6 traditional Japanese botanicals selected and balanced to represent the four seasons, with an underlying scaffold of 8 traditional gin botanicals (juniper, coriander seed, angelica root & seed, cardamom, cinnamon, bitter orange, lemon peel).

The Japanese botanicals are Sakura flower and Sakura leaf (cherry blossom and cherry leaf), Sencha tea (green tea) and Gyokuro tea (refined green tea), Sanshō pepper and Yuzu peel. Sakura, the ornamental cherry is the spirit of Japan with the delicate blossoms representing renewal and the brilliant and ephemeral nature of life. In Japan Sakura begin to bloom in late January, with the cherry blossom front moving north through the islands till April. As we are in mid blossom season, with a few blossoms in Regents Park despite the snow, this is perhaps an auspicious time to be tasting Roku.

The nose is delicate and inviting. There is fresh pine with citrus top notes. Fruity floral notes of sakura (almost vanilla) ebb through, with underlying green savoury notes of tea.

Tasted neat Roku is aromatic, clean and fresh. Clear heady fresh pine with fruit floral hints lead followed by underlying notes of green tea. In the mid palate there is a bold punch of fizzy, fiery pepper which yields to a long dry, citrus bitter linger which rounds out with a hint of light vanilla sweetness. This is a clean, refined, elegant gin which is very good neat and makes an excellent martini.

With tonic (Fever tree regular) the nose is clean and fresh. Citrus leads and the green tea notes open out to initially give a dryer profile with a clear pepper bite and a long citrus bitter, dry linger. Give Roku a little time in the glass and the fruit floral notes of Sakura open out and literally blossom in the glass.

An elegant, nuanced and refined gin which makes an excellent additional to our shelves.


There is an art to making gin. Which botanicals, in what proportions? The variations are literally endless, and for every successful recipe there will be hundreds of also rans strewn across the distillery floor. Making a good gin is hard work, but making a good savoury gin is about as tough as it gets and so we were very intrigued when we obtained a bottle of Lilliput Dorset Gin; a small batch gin based on a london dry recipe made with Bosnian juniper to which rosemary, basil, thyme, kalamata olives are added.

And we weren’t disappointed, Lilliput is really is quite a remarkable, fresh, savoury gin.

The nose is fresh, fragrant and full. Sweet, citrus, almost floral notes of basil sit at the top with vibrant, green, almost juicy savoury herb notes and ample dashes of fresh, clean pine.

Tasted neat Lilliput gin is punchy and flavoursome. The lead is cool super-fresh juniper with hints of floral lemon citrus. This gives way to a sweet anise with a building bitter peppery bite. There is a teasing hint of warmth, but the middle profile builds to a pleasing green, bold pine and rosemary freshness. Like waves on a summer Dorset beach, satisfying, lip-smacking savoury notes roll underneath, all packaged in a satisfying silky mouthfeel.

With tonic the nose is still full with Citrus, basil and camphor. The profile leads with floral citrus and piney juniper. The peppery bitter is more subdued and the underlying juicy savoury tone is accentuated with the thyme and the savouriness of rosemary & olive shining through. There is a sweet, almost fruity linger of olive & basil.

Lilliput gin is a cooling, fresh, vibrant and satisfying marriage of juniper and the lemon camphor deliciousness of fresh savoury herbs, all balanced with a subtle sweetness. It makes a cracking martini and a great gin and tonic which we garnish with a cherry tomato and lemon peel.

%d bloggers like this: